China rolls out experimental Covid vaccine as it eyes global market | Daily News

China rolls out experimental Covid vaccine as it eyes global market

Beijing is set to expand a programme that administers experimental coronavirus vaccines as Chinese developers chart a risky path to dominating global supplies.

In a surprise announcement last month, a representative from state-owned China National Biotec Group, or Sinopharm, revealed that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had already taken the company’s two leading experimental Covid-19 vaccines.

The drugs were dispensed as part of a limited use programme that began with little fanfare by the Chinese government in July. The vaccines were administered even though final stage, or phase 3, trials designed to confirm overall effectiveness had not been completed. Details of the programme’s scope remain unclear, but government statements suggest use was originally restricted to frontline health workers and state employees travelling overseas to high-risk areas, including to work on projects along China’s Belt and Road infrastructure investment scheme.

The programme now appears to be expanding to include large portions of the population, in what experts said was a high-risk strategy for vaccine developers to distribute and test products before they hit global markets. Health authorities in one Chinese province have asked enterprises and government departments to gather details of employees willing to receive emergency use vaccines ahead of winter, according to a government notice issued last month seen by the Financial Times.

Included among the recipients were transport workers, people travelling to countries with high Covid-19 infection rates, frozen food logistics workers, staff in supermarkets or other enclosed spaces, and employees of schools, orphanages, jails and elderly care homes.